Don't Know Much About Nothing at All

The people at The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of a survey they conducted entitled “Religious Knowledge Survey.” You can take what I assume is a shorted version of the test on their website; feel free to respond with how well you did. I missed one—there was a question on “nirvana” and I got mixed up and answered “Kurt Cobain.” Anyway, I am usually thrilled to get a 93% on any test… and usually quite surprised.

The headlines you see on various news outlets reporting on this survey usually say “Survey: Atheists Know More About Religion Than Believers” (Time) or “Atheists, Agnostics Most Knowledgeable About Religion” (L.A. Times). And sure enough, atheists and agnostics scored higher on the test than did many believers. Catholics didn’t do very well on the test at all, many not even recognizing the doctrine of transubstantiation (which is uniquely their own). Of course, there were many Protestants who didn’t seem to know that Martin Luther was pretty big in that Reformation thing. There really weren't that many Bible questions on the survey; most of the questions had to do with specific religious practices and beliefs. Maybe that is why atheists did so well—they have to keep up with that the stuff they don’t believe in.

The good news is that 80% of the people surveyed knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic. The bad news is that 4% of those surveyed thought that Stephen King wrote Moby Dick. Maybe so many don’t know much about religion because, as Art Garfunkel used to sing, we "don't know much about nothing at all."